Council Approves Events Schedule, Discusses Budget

From special events to donuts and ice cream including a showcasing of capital projects and two presentations to the mayor from the Kosovo ambassador, Gulfport’s City Council met for two hours and 18 minutes on Tuesday, August 21 covering a wide variety of topics.

Gulfport City Manager Jim O’Reilly explained that in 2019, special fundraising events held in the city must be sponsored by local organizations or at minimum include partnerships with local groups.

“We will not be asking council to entertain the closing of Williams Pier during the Grand Prix boat race,” he said. “The applicants have not asked to continue that process based on conversations we have had with them in explaining there were some issues relating to it.”

During the second-annual Formula One boat race in 2018, the pier was closed to free public access to accommodate VIP patrons paying $45 each for shaded seating and priority food and beverage service. In general, the race is free to the public with some proceeds from sales such as food, beverage and VIP tickets being donated to the Michael J. Yakes Foundation, a local non-profit.

Some Gulfport residents expressed concern about closing the public pier to free access to accommodate a fundraising event that only partially benefits a local non-profit organization. According to the Florida Division of Corporations, the foundation was established on October 21, 2013 and is directed by Maddy Guenther, the wife of Joe Guenther who is one of the race organizers. Both are Gulfport residents. The Guenthers have yet to publically release the exact donation amount to the non-profit from the event.

Councilmember Paul Ray also inquired about possible scheduling conflicts with the multi-day race and other events such as the First Friday Art and Gallery Walk. O’Reilly assured Ray and other councilmembers that in 2019, the boat race and its related road closures will not conflict with other events as it did in 2018.

The city’s proposed fiscal year 2019 budget totals $12,970,000 for a population of 12,200 residents. 

During the meeting, city staff showcased budget details projected on a screen or displayed as a collection of 15 large posters on the walls of the council chambers. 

“The projects slide is my favorite,” said O’Reilly. “We’re excited about this list.” A total of 74 capital project highlights from the past four to five years were listed including both phases of the Shore Boulevard Recreation Trail project, the marina office and ship store renovations, the construction of the mooring field, numerous improvements at the municipal library and repairs throughout the city related to sidewalks, streets, alleys and the sanitary sewer system.

“The folks who live here in Gulfport ask a lot of us and, therefore, we ask a lot of you,” said Mayor Sam Henderson. “The amount of input you have going into this [budget process] means a great deal. Thank you for the amount of shear data, opinions, requests and thoughts that we deal with. And, thank you for being a cooperative and collegiate group of people to do this with – it is appreciated.”

Proposed budget discussion details for fiscal year 2019 will continue during the council’s regular meetings on Tuesday, September 4 and Tuesday, September 18. Meetings begin at 7 p.m. in City Hall, 2401 53rd Street South.

To review the 307-page proposed 2019 fiscal year city budget for October 1, 2018 through September 30, 2019, visit

New Fast-food Franchise Site Plan Approved

Gulfport is one step closer to getting a new Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins ice cream franchise located on a double lot at 5602 Gulfport Boulevard South as the council unanimously approved a resolution regarding the project’s site plan.

The 28-page resolution details that the applicants for the building permit, Poul and April Hornsleth of Gulfport, must complete the process within one year otherwise the approval will expire. Their process began November 21, 2017.

The site plan includes a drive-through feature, 13 parking spaces and seating for a total of 32 patrons: 28 interior and four exterior. It will be 23 feet tall including signage on the front. There will be six employees working in the store during peak-hour shifts with the average staff size being from two to four employees.

According to city documentation, the primary entrance and exit to the restaurant facility will be from Gulfport Boulevard South with secondary access to 56th Street South. Estimated vehicle traffic data shows that 868 visits per day are expected.

Because the business will border residential properties, several councilmembers requested additional details about the noise impact regarding delivery vehicle size along with the volume-level of the ordering speaker for the drive-through.

The applicant’s engineer explained that deliveries would be made on site and that the vehicles would be the size of small trucks. To reduce noise, the order speaker’s orientation would be facing the southeast corner of the property, which is pointing away from the closest residences. The property will also include a physical visual and sound buffer along the alley in the forms of a six-foot privacy fence and large bamboo tree plantings along with additional foliage in the southwest corner.

Kosovo Ambassador Honors Mayor Henderson

At the Gulfport City Council meeting on Tuesday, August 21, Mayor Sam Henderson, left, and Honorary Ambassador of the Republic of Kosovo Otto F. von Feigenblatt, who is also the Count of Kobryn and president of the International Academy of Social Sciences (IASS) of Palm Beach, Florida, exchanged awards as gestures of engagement between local governments across international borders.

In a gesture of local government engagement across international borders, Honorary Ambassador of the Republic of Kosovo Otto F. von Feigenblatt, who is also the Count of Kobryn and president of the International Academy of Social Sciences (IASS) of Palm Beach, Florida, presented two awards to Gulfport Mayor Sam Henderson.

One was entitled “Honorary Academician of Social Sciences” that gives Henderson the rank of a full teaching professor in all events sponsored by the IASS and the other was “distinguished membership” in the Society for the Promotion of Kosovo.

“Kosovo is the youngest republic in Europe,” said von Feigenblatt. “We gained independence in 2008. We have to connect to the rest of the world and try to learn the best practices because that is the only way for us to succeed and for our people to have a future. We are eager to engage with local governments all over the world because municipalities are key to the development of the country.”

In turn, Henderson presented von Feigenblatt with Gulfport’s Gateway to the Gulf award as the city’s token of international friendship.


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